Editor’s note: Dr. Paul Stoffels recently participated in the G8 Dementia Summit in London as the only industry speaker. He joined UK Prime Minister David Cameron and Dr. Margaret Chan, Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) among many others to discuss and develop a coordinated global action on dementia, one of the biggest health challenges in the coming decades. Dr. Stoffels shares his thoughts about the conference in this blog post.
Thirty years ago, the world faced the global crisis of HIV/AIDS. It was a complex disease that was little understood, spreading, and claiming the lives of people all over the world. At the time, there were no AIDS specific treatments; an HIV diagnosis meant death within 2 years. The first World AIDS Day was held in 1988 to identify solutions for working together to make a significant impact on the disease in part through research and the development of new treatments. Later, in 2002, the G8 came together to coordinate resources and efforts to improve access to new medicines through the development of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Today, thanks to broad collaborative efforts like these, HIV patients can have near to normal life expectancy.
Society now faces another major crisis: Alzheimer’s disease. It too is complex, not yet well understood, and claims the very being of what makes us human. Dementia and Alzheimer’s affect more than 44 million people worldwide, a number that is expected to nearly double every 20 years, and collectively cost the world more than $600 billion every year.
Last week I was honored to join UK Prime Minister David Cameron, UK health secretary Jeremy Hunt, health ministers of the G8 countries, global health leaders including Margaret Chan, NGOs, and scientists at the G8 Dementia Summit in London to discuss the ongoing work around the world to address dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and to hear from the patients and their families who battle dementia every day. Their stories were heartbreaking, and inspiring. The Goal of the G8 dementia initiative is to help them – and to address what is a growing challenge for society - by building on the significant research collaborations that exist between our countries and our partners and to strengthen our efforts to fight dementia globally. At Johnson & Johnson, we know that through extreme collaboration that provides an integrated approach and leverages the expertise across public private partnerships, we can make significant progress. We have done it before in the fight against HIV/AIDS, and we can do it again.
There are many lessons to be learned from how the global scientific community tackled the HIV crisis, stating that collaboration around science, biomarkers, early diagnosis, novel regulatory pathways and patient advocacy were all critical to the process that more rapidly led to better medical solutions. And today, we are in an even more advanced scientific age. There is exponentially more information about Alzheimer’s disease available to us today. But the challenge is huge, and even with significant computational power and state of the art tools, it will take time and require a roadmap for how to work together effectively.
With the G8 Summit declaration to fight dementia, we now have commitment from health ministers and governments from around the world to address Alzheimer’s in a robust and collaborative way. Through innovation, increased funding for dementia research, information sharing and open access to data, a commitment to strengthen healthcare delivery and services for those living with dementia, and a push to reduce the stigma of dementia, we are on track to identify a cure or a disease-modifying therapy for dementia by 2025. By working together, we can make a real difference in this devastating disease and deliver more years of life and quality of life to people around the world.
Dr. Paul Stoffels is Chief Scientific Officer, and Worldwide Chairman, Pharmaceuticals, Johnson & Johnson. In this role, he works with R&D leaders across Johnson & Johnson to set the enterprise-wide innovation agenda and is a member of the Johnson & Johnson Executive Committee. He began his career as a physician in Africa, focusing on HIV and tropical diseases research. Paul chairs the Johnson & Johnson R&D Management Committee and provides oversight to the Johnson & Johnson Development Corporation (JJDC) and the Johnson & Johnson innovation centers, with the goal of catalyzing innovative science and technology.